Welcome to the April 22nd edition of the Urban Survival Newsletter.
Before I get into what we’re going to talk about this week, I wanted to share a few timely thoughts on disaster preparedness from my friends over at PersonalLiberty.com, where I am a regular contributor.
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Natural and man-made disasters are becoming increasingly common—the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan prove disaster can strike swiftly and with little warning. Every year tens of thousands die and hundreds of millions worldwide are driven from their homes. If it happens to you will you know what to do… let alone have the necessary supplies on hand to make it through?
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Now on to this week’s edition of the Urban Survival Newsletter…
To start with, I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter! This is the biggest holiday of the year for me and it commemorates the reason why I’m able to have so much peace that defies understanding in the midst of trials and turmoil. I wish the same for everyone, but I’ve got readers at all ends of the religious spectrum, so I’ll leave it at that 🙂
This week’s newsletter is going to be shorter than usual. For the last 10 days, we’ve been running a strategic relocation scenario and I’ve simply been too busy testing and doing stuff to write much about the experience yet. The good news is that I’ve got a lot to share over the coming weeks on what worked and what didn’t.
You might be asking yourself what a strategic relocation is. In short, it’s like bugging out, but you do it before disaster strikes and before it’s urgent. This allows you to relocate at a more relaxed pace and with more stuff.
One of the myths of preparedness is that when “it” happens, people will be able to grab all of their “stuff,” throw it in the car, ”bug out” and get out of Dodge. This is doable for single people, but for families, it’s quite a bit more difficult.
There are several holes in this load-up-and-bug-out line of thinking, but one of the big ones is just how heavy preparedness “stuff” is, how much space it takes up, and how a full load affects your speed and maneuverability.
Guns, ammo, food, water, precious metals, tools, camping gear, clothes, people, dogs (we consider ours vital), medical/trauma gear, toiletries, electronics, fuel, generators, and games all take space and few of them are light weight. You can quickly hit 2,000-4,000 pounds and run into problems with finding light, inexpensive, practical storage containers strong enough to handle stacking.
Of course, if you have to travel fast and light, you’d leave a lot behind, but these are items that you wouldn’t want to leave behind if you were leaving your home for what you thought was going to be an extended or permanent survival situation.
They’re also not cheap items, which makes it difficult to have two fully stocked locations. And, even if you do have both your home and retreat location fully stocked, it would make most people ill to abandon lots of good gear and supplies.
Not having to relocate is one of the core fundamentals of the SurviveInPlace.com Survival Course. Regardless of where you live, you need to have a plan in place to survive short, medium, and eventually long term disasters wherever you spend the majority of your time. The reason is simple—since that’s where you spend the majority of your time, that’s where you’ll likely be when a disaster happens, no matter how good or bad of a location it is. (To read more about the SurviveInPlace.com Survival Course, please go to www.SurviveInPlace.com)
Still, some people’s primary plan is to bug out to an alternate location if there is a natural or manmade disaster.
But if you think that when a disaster happens, you’re going to be able to get your fully loaded vehicles and/or trailers loaded, on the road, and to your bug out location while everyone else is trying to do the same thing, you may be in for a big surprise.
Not only do you need to be at the head of the pack leaving your town, but you need to be ahead of everyone leaving every town between you and your final destination. We’ve got hurricane evacuation after hurricane evacuation illustrating how the early movers have it easy and the masses end up moving at a snail’s pace…if at all.
It’s been said that you can bug out fast-and-light or heavy-and-slow. When you’re traveling light, you can accelerate, brake, turn, and generally maneuver quicker. When you’re loaded for bear, you use more gas, change lanes when people let you, turn where you’ve got a big enough radius, and hope that people don’t slam on their breaks when they cut in front of you.
You just won’t be able to make as good of time with a full load and/or a trailer than you normally can. Your vehicle may not be able to go as fast, braking and handling will be different, fuel doesn’t go as far, and wind can be a NASTY enemy. In addition to slower speeds, it may not be practical or safe to drive as many hours as you could under normal conditions.
Which brings us to strategic relocation. If you have a location where you’d rather ride out a survival situation and have the ability to support yourself there financially, you may want to pro-actively relocate there before things get REALLY bad…either days/weeks or even months/years ahead. Relocating before everyone else does makes the heavy and slow option practical.
(Now, I’m not necessarily talking about heading to the great Northwest to live on a family compound…although that is a romantic notion that’s a great fit for many families. Some people find great peace and contentment living alone and being rugged individualists. They are living lives that are much closer to how the founding fathers, pioneers, and most rural families lived until recently. I applaud the people who choose that lifestyle, but it’s just not for our family…right now. (It may be soon, but not right now.)
Instead, I’m referring to strategically locating to a house, neighborhood, city, or state that is closer to friends and/or relatives while things are still stable. Basically, people who you’d let double up with you or who you’d want to double up with if the need arose. People who can watch your back and people who you want to depend on in the event of a breakdown in civil order.
If you’re already living by friends and family, then you may not need to concern yourself with strategic relocation, but you will want to keep reading for ideas on how to plan for emergency bug-out scenarios.
If you do decide that things are getting dicey enough with the S&P downgrading US debt *finally* and have a long distance move that requires a moving company, you’ll quickly learn that they don’t want to move a lot of items that are common for preppers and you’ll have to either sell them at a discount and re-buy them or move them yourself.
These next steps are what we went through to figure out how much of our preparedness gear we could actually transport at one time and are valuable regardless of whether you are planning for the possibility of a strategic relocation or an emergency bug-out.
Step 1. Decide what weight you feel comfortable working with (lifting, going up/down stairs, extending out from your body, etc.) From experience, I can tell you that you can fill up big, heavy duty storage containers with 300+ pounds of ammo. While this may be a weight that you can throw around and move quickly with, it’s too much for me. I decided to max out my boxes at 75 pounds (which is also, conveniently, one of the weight intervals for kettlebells.) That is a weight that I can work with at a fast pace for a decent amount of time without straining my back, but it shouldn’t be a benchmark. The last thing you want to do is try to be a tough guy and screw up your back at the beginning of a trip. Pick a weight that works for YOU and train with that weight on a regular basis.
I found the nice big heavy-duty storage containers to be mostly unusable…except for bulky items. 8, 10, and 12 gallon storage bins worked much better…and you can buy them almost anywhere, including Costco.
Step 2. Decide on your level of operational security. I chose to put my preparedness gear in opaque storage bins or clear storage bins surrounded by clothes.
Step 3. Figure out the weight limits of your vehicle(s) and trailer(s). Remember that you want to keep heavy items as low as possible to maximize stability. If the gear is worth having, and your life worth living, don’t overload.
Step 4. Figure out how many bins you can transport based on weight/space limitations. Don’t forget to account for people, pets, & coolers. For the weight, take the amount of weight your vehicle is rated for and divide by the maximum weight of the containers you decided on.
Step 5. If you’re gear is not already packed in storage bins, try doing a dry run loading your vehicle(s) to see how many containers it/they will hold. If you’ve got a trailer and intend on stacking more than one level high, make sure that your containers can handle the additional weight PLUS the downward forces that your tie downs will add or use a shelving system. I used metal shelving units from Costco in a trailer and 3 levels of storage containers. Some items, like 5 gallon buckets with lids, will probably be easier to transport as-is rather than putting them into bins.
Once you’ve loaded in bins and other hard sided items, you can fill the remaining spaces with soft items like clothes, pillows, coats, etc.
***Quick aside*** If you use tie downs to keep a load from shifting from side to side and front to back, they will be exerting downward force in addition to the lateral force that keeps your load stable. As an example, if your straps make a 45 degree angle going from your tie down point up to the top of your load, you will have AS MUCH additional downward force as you do lateral force. In my case, the downward force of my tie downs almost doubled the total downward force on my shelving units. If you’re stacking storage bins on top of storage bins, they’ll have to be able to handle this additional weight without deforming. This is especially difficult in warm weather.
Step 6. Once you know your weight and volume limitations in terms of storage bins, it’s time to fill those storage bins. I weighed every bin as I loaded them and wrote the weight and a shorthand description on tape on the outside. (Remember, my bins are opaque…and it doesn’t take more than a couple of times of rifling through several bins to appreciate the value of labeling.) You can also put a sheet in the top of each bin with the contents.
You might also want to label where each of the bins go…like “Trunk, bottom level” or “pickup bed, by end gate” or “trailer, LOFO (last on, first off) or FOLO (first on, last off). This is especially handy if you have a multi-day trip and you’re going to need to get items out of your bins during the trip. In general, I loaded all of the heaviest boxes on the bottom, lighter ones on the next level, and the lightest items and items that we wanted access to on the top level.
Continuing with the multi-layer approach that I take with 72-hour kits, as you’re going through this process, you’ll realize that it’s a great time to prioritize, which would make it easier to pack if you have a limited amount of time to leave, could only take one vehicle, or had an unexpected person along when you had to leave.
If you’re like me, this process is quite comforting and freeing…it makes it easier to find things when everything’s organized and it’s nice to have a solid plan in place that takes the unexpected twists and turns of life into account.
I’ve got to run for this week, but I want to get your input on strategies that you’ve used for strategic relocations and bugging out, and experiences that you’ve had. What’s worked for you and what hasn’t. Also, are you thinking of relocating more or less now than you were 6 months ago? What are the biggest factors—family, defensible location, local politics, income?